How to approach the unimaginable.
“Everything is possible for one who believes.” Mark 9:21 — 24
As a Christian family law attorney, I often find myself at the intersection where faith and divorce collide. Many clients of faith find me through church contacts and seek me out desiring a relatable ear to the way they feel. They find me at what is the lowest point in their life, for most, and they are questioning their faith, what they have been taught since childhood, and the future life they now face. It is this context in which I ask, “How does a Christian divorce attorney represent the divorcing Christian?”
Empathy and grace are first and foremost critical to the process. There’s no other way around it. My heart breaks for clients who have a deeply held faith that has been the central defining characteristic of their personality and their marriage. Many were raised in homes in which they were taught that divorce was near unpardonable and that they must have a “scriptural basis” for a divorce or be destined for a life of celibacy and loneliness. Now they face that unimaginable reality.
Divorce can cause one to question the past relationships they had with their spouse, which in turn causes them to question everything they relied upon in the past as belief. But two humans in a relationship do not equate to the supernatural power of one human and our God. Maybe God was discarded in the relationship. Don’t let that be the reality moving forward. If you find yourself in the unanticipated process of divorce, always remember that the Kingdom still needs you, regardless of this event in your life.
Habakkuk means to wrestle and embrace, and we see in the book of Habakkuk that the man himself did just that when it came to many Kingdom realities. Pain and hope are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they are something of a yin and yang. A synergy so to speak that too often come with one another. Habakkuk is a great Bible book for one going through divorce as it touches on common themes for those experiencing injustice, wrongdoing, destruction, conflict, and a paralyzed law. Justice doesn’t clearly prevail in Habakkuk though, as we see in Chapter 1:
“Must I forever see these evil deeds? Why must I watch all this misery? Wherever I look, I see destruction and violence. I am surrounded by people who love to argue and fight. The law has become paralyzed, and there is no justice in the courts. The wicked far outnumber the righteous, so that justice has become perverted.” Habakkuk 1: 3–4
Compare the Habakkuk story to your own experience within the family law courts. Are you feeling as if you are the victim of injustice, wrongdoing, destruction, constant conflict, and a paralyzed legal system? Don’t let this experience cause you to question your faith, but find strength in the reality that this experience could be the beginning of a resurgence of faith and connection to God in your life.
If you find yourself in the difficult position of navigating a divorce, maintain heart, and keep these few things in mind as you face the process:
Don’t look back. This decision may not be yours, and you may be prone to reminisce about what might have been; however, this will only distract you from moving forward in your life with a Kingdom purpose and an opportunity for growth. If your spouse refuses to continue in the marriage, don’t look back as Lot’s wife did in Genesis 19:26, and miss the opportunity to move forward into what God has waiting for you.
Trust God in the crisis. Don’t let anyone minimize the impact of a divorce on anyone’s life, but also don’t underestimate the power of God to move in your life to help you through it. Put your trust in God and do not be afraid for what can anyone do to you in the end? Psalm 56:11
Defend your legal position, but remember your Kingdom position. There is nothing that should concede a relationship with their children to a disagreeable spouse. Defend yourself and work to preserve the relationship you have with your family. The system we have requires it. However, bear in mind the name you carry with you of “Christian.” Pursuing a position against a spouse out of bitterness or malice is not keeping with Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5–7.
Preserve your family first. In keeping with the idea of “Remembering your Kingdom position” don’t allow yourself to fall prey to the temptation to make an unjustified effort to alienate the other parent from their children. Preservation of the family, even in the face of divorce, is in keeping with the spirit of Jesus’s teachings and should be remembered when evaluating your legal strategy.
Finances are God’s. Let him have them and do with them as he chooses. A spouse’s drive for more money is often the root cause of too many divorces because the desire for more results in less of what God wants in our lives. When we fail to pursue righteousness, faith, love and gentleness in an effort to pursue money, the ingredients for a divorce are set.
“For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.” 1 Timothy 6:10–11.
Get your own house in order before expecting your spouse to do the same. Many divorce attorneys make sure their client casts the first stone in an effort to gain leverage in the divorce case. I’ve handled too many divorces in which one spouse wants to accuse the other of doing something they were both guilty of doing together. Remember the teaching of Jesus:
“He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7.
Be an example for your kids and those watching. Don’t lose your light. Children are watching everything and their perceptions are heightened when they find themselves in the middle of a conflict between parents. Your example to your children and to those watching can be one of light or one of sadness. “Walk as children of Light.” Ephesians 5:8.
Restore. The marriage may not be able to be restored, and if not, let yourself be restored during this transition. Restore your reliance on God. Restore your soul. Psalm 23:3. Restoration of your reliance upon your faith and relationship with God is a positive outcome. In Psalms we see David hurting and calling out to God in hope and prayer.
“Have compassion on me, Lord, for I am weak. Heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. I am sick at heart. How long, O Lord, until you restore me?” Psalms 6:2–3.
Restoration will come to those who sincerely seek it. God is in the business of forgiveness (1 John 1:9) and reconciliation, including those who find themselves navigating the most unfortunate of circumstances within their marriage. Do not lose faith in the reality that God has more in store for you and that the Kingdom still needs you, always.
-Chris Smith is a believer and a family law attorney in Oklahoma and Texas.